COVID-19 Vaccinations FAQ

When will I get the vaccine? Where is it distributed? Find the answers to all your questions about the COVID-19 vaccine below in this FAQ.
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When can I get the vaccine? 

  • The NHS is currently offering the COVID-19 vaccine to people most at risk from  coronavirus. 
  • In England, the vaccine is being offered in some hospitals and pharmacies, at  hundreds of local vaccination centres run by GPs and at larger vaccination centres.  More centres are opening all the time. 
  • It's being given to: 
    • people aged 80 and over 
    • some people aged 70 and over 
    • some people who are clinically extremely vulnerable 
    • people who live or work in care homes 
    • health and social care workers 
  • You also need to be registered with a GP surgery in England. You can register with a  GP if you do not have one. 

How will I know when I can get a vaccine?

The NHS will contact you and invite you to book a vaccine appointment when it’s your turn. You may receive a phone call, letter or text message from your GP practice or a letter from the national booking service, so it’s useful to:

  • keep an eye out to make sure you receive the message (for example if you have a mobile phone but don’t typically use text messages)
  • let your GP surgery know if you are caring for someone with underlying health conditions who would struggle to cope if you became unwell. You can help the vaccination effort by emailing your GP practice or using its website to make sure your local surgery knows you are an unpaid carer.
  • update your contact details if they have changed lately – it’s a good time to make sure your GP practice has the most up to date information.
  • As long as you’re registered with a GP and have up to date contact details you should receive an invitation in due course. For more information how to register with a GP and to find your local surgery visit: www.nhs.uk/register
  • To find out about what to expect at your vaccine appointment please visit: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/coronavirus-vaccination/what-happens-at-your-appointment/

Where will the vaccine be administered? 

  • In England, the vaccine is being offered in some hospitals and pharmacies, at  hundreds of local vaccination centres run by GPs and at larger vaccination centres.  More centres are opening all the time. 
  • Over the coming weeks we will continue to build capacity across the system to offer  more vaccinations with additional local vaccination services, hospital and vaccination  centres coming on-line. 

Why do I have to wait?

  • The COVID-19 vaccines will become available as they are approved for use and as  each batch is manufactured. So every dose is needed to protect those at highest  risk. The NHS will let you know when it is your turn to have the vaccine. 
  • Some people who are housebound or live in a care home and who can’t get to a  local vaccination centre may have to wait for supply of the right type of vaccine. This  is because only some vaccines can be transported to people’s homes.

How safe are the vaccines?

  • Yes. The NHS will not offer any Covid-19 vaccinations to the public until independent  experts have signed off that it is safe to do so 
  • The MHRA, the official UK regulator, have said that both of these vaccines have  good safety profiles and offer a high level of protection, and we have full confidence  in their expert judgement and processes
  • As with any medicine, vaccines are highly regulated products
  • There are checks at every stage in the development and manufacturing process,  and continued monitoring once it has been authorised and is being used in the wider population.

What vaccines are currently available?

  •  Both the Pfizer/BioNTech and Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines are now available. Both vaccines have been shown to be safe and offer high levels of  protection and have been given regulatory approval by the MHRA
  • The Government has in principle secured access to seven different vaccine  candidates, across four different vaccine types, totalling over 357 million doses. This  includes:  
    • 40 million doses of the BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine  
    • 100m doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine
    • 7 million doses of the Moderna vaccine, which is also being assessed by the  MHRA. 

Will the vaccine work with the new strains? 

  • There is no evidence currently that the new strains will be resistant to the vaccines  we have, so we are continuing to vaccinate people as normal. Scientists are looking  now in detail at the characteristics of the virus in relation to the vaccines. Viruses,  such as the winter flu virus, often branch into different strains but these small  variations rarely render vaccines ineffective. 

Can people choose what vaccine they receive?

Any vaccines that the NHS will provide will have been approved because they pass  the MHRA’s tests on safety and efficacy, so people should be assured that whatever  vaccine they get, it is worth their while

How long will my vaccine be effective for? 

We expect these vaccines to work for at least a year – if not longer. This will be  constantly monitored.

How effective are the vaccines?

  • The 1st dose of the COVID-19 vaccine should give you good protection from  coronavirus. But you need to have the 2 doses of the vaccine to give you longer  lasting protection. 
  • There is a chance you might still get or spread coronavirus even if you have the  vaccine. 
  • This means it is important to: 
    • continue to follow social distancing guidance 
    • if you can, wear something that covers your nose and mouth in places where  it's hard to stay away from other people

What happens if a person has the first jab but not the second?

  • Both vaccines have been authorised on the basis of two doses because the  evidence from the clinical trials shows that this gives the maximum level of  protection. 
  • To ensure as many people are vaccinated as quickly as possible, the Department for  Health and Social Care now advise that the second dose of both the Oxford/AstraZeneca and the Pfizer/BioNtech vaccine should be scheduled up to 12  weeks apart. 
  • The evidence doesn’t show any risk to not having the second dose other than not  being as protected as you otherwise would be. We would urge everyone to show up  for both of their appointments for their own protection as well as to ensure we don’t  waste vaccines or the time of NHS staff.

When and where will I get my second vaccine?

It is important to have both doses of the same vaccine to give you the best protection, so make sure you keep your next appointment to get your second dose.

You do not need to do anything to arrange your second dose. The NHS will contact you with your appointment details. Wait to be contacted. The second dose completes the course and is likely to be important for longer-term protection. It's important to get both doses to protect yourself against coronavirus. 

You may have a second appointment booked already and you should have a record card with details of your next appointment written on it, this will be around 12 weeks after your first appointment and at the same location where you received your first dose.

What ingredients are in the vaccine?

There is no material of foetal or animal origin in either vaccine. All ingredients are  published in healthcare information on the MHRA’s website. 

  • For the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine information is available here
  • For the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine information is available here

Allergies

Anyone with a previous history of allergic reactions to the ingredients of the vaccine should not receive it, but those with any other allergies such as a food allergy can now have the vaccine

Can I pay for a COVID-19 vaccine privately or at a pharmacy?

  • No. Vaccinations are only available through the NHS. You can be contacted by the  NHS, your employer, or a GP surgery local to you, to receive your vaccine.  Remember, the vaccine is free of charge.  
    • The NHS will never ask you for your bank account or card details. 
    • The NHS will never ask you for your PIN or banking password. 
    • The NHS will never arrive unannounced at your home to administer the  vaccine.  
    • The NHS will never ask you to prove your identity by sending copies of  personal documents such as your passport, driving licence, bills or pay slips. 
  • If you receive a call you believe to be fraudulent, hang up. If you believe you have  been the victim of fraud or identity theft you should report this directly to Action Fraud  on 0300 123 2040. Where the victim is vulnerable, and particularly if you are worried  that someone has or might come to your house, report it to the Police online or by  calling 101.

What are the potential side effects? 

  • These are important details which the MHRA always consider when assessing  candidate vaccines for use
  • For these vaccines, like lots of others, they have identified that some people might  feel slightly unwell, but they report that no significant side effects have been  observed in the tens of thousands of people involved in trials
  • All patients will be provided with information on the vaccine they have received, how  to look out for any side effects, and what to do if they do occur, including reporting  them to the MHRA.  
  • More information on possible side effects can be found here

Advice if you are of childbearing age, pregnant or breastfeeding

The MHRA have updated their guidance to say that pregnant women and those who  are breastfeeding can have the vaccine but should discuss it with a clinician to ensure that the benefits outweigh any potential risks

Is the vaccine mandatory?

There are no plans for a COVID-19 vaccine to be compulsory

How does the vaccine work? 

The vaccine works by making a protein from the virus that is important for creating  protection. The protein works in the same way they do for other vaccines by stimulating the  immune system to make antibodies and cells to fight the infection.

What is being done to encourage vaccine uptake in black, Asian, minority ethnic and  other disproportionately affected communities/groups?

We understand that some communities have specific concerns and may be more  hesitant in taking the vaccine than others. The NHS is working collaboratively with  partners to ensure vaccine messages reaches as diverse an audience as possible  and are tailored to meet their needs. This includes engagement with community and faith-led groups, charities and other  voluntary organisations.

What time will the opening hours of vaccinations be?

Standard opening times for vaccination centres will be 8am – 8pm, seven days a  week. To test the system and make sure the space is safe for visitors and staff, most  vaccination centres in the first day or days may open slightly later.

What happens if I am over 70 and haven’t been contacted by my GP?

Until now the NHS has asked people to wait until they are contacted to help ensure that those who are most vulnerable are protected first- and that remains the case for most people. However, whilst we have now vaccinated well over 84% of over 70s, to ensure absolutely everyone is offered the vaccine, people aged 70 and over can now contact the NHS so they can be vaccinated by the middle of this month. The easiest way to arrange a vaccination is through the national booking services which can be accessed at www.nhs.uk/covid-vaccination. If you are unable to book online can call 119 free of charge, anytime between 7am and 11pm seven days a week. The national booking service allows people to arrange a vaccination at their nearest vaccination centre or pharmacy service. If a suitable and convenient slot is not available people can also call their GP practice. 

I'm a registered carer of someone in a priority group, when will I get the vaccine?

If you are caring for someone in one of the priority groups who would struggle to cope if you became unwell, the first thing we would recommend is to make sure that your GP knows that you are a carer.

It doesn’t matter if you are a paid or unpaid carer as long as you are registered as a carer.

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation guidance that the NHS follows says that if a carer is over 70 years old, you should ask to be vaccinated at the same time the person they care for is vaccinated – so please ask at the point you are contacted by the NHS.  

If the carer is 69 or younger, you will be able to get the vaccine once the NHS begins immunisations for category six. As the NHS moves through the priority groups in order, we expect that vaccinations will begin to be offered to people in category five onwards from late February/early March 2021.

Are the vaccinations safe for people with long-term conditions?

Vaccines will be approved if it is considered safe for people with long-term conditions.  These vaccines are safe and effective for the vast majority of people – they have been tested on tens of thousands of people and assessed by experts. Your GP can advise on when you are eligible and will contact you with an appointment when it’s your turn.

 

A very small number of people who are at risk of COVID-19 cannot have the vaccine – this includes people who have severe allergies. Everybody will also be screened for potential allergic reactions before getting vaccinated. All vaccinators will have the training they need to deal with any rare cases of adverse reactions, and all venues will be equipped to care for people who need it – just like with any other vaccine. 

 

The MHRA have updated their guidance to say that pregnant women and those who are breastfeeding can have the vaccine but should discuss it with a clinician to ensure that the benefits outweigh any potential risks. Women of childbearing age, those who are pregnant, or breastfeeding should read the detailed information available on NHS.UK.

Are teachers eligible to receive the vaccine?

The NHS is currently only offering vaccines to people within England's first four priority groups, in line with the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) guidelines. This does not include teachers, unless they also meet age or health-related criteria. Vaccinating the priority groups first will save the most lives and provide the quickest and safest route out of the pandemic.

Can I take the vaccine whilst fasting for Ramadan?

The British Islamic Medical Association have issued specific advice urging Muslims observing Ramadan not to delay getting the vaccine, which says that taking the Covid-19 vaccines currently licensed in the UK does not invalidate a fast. They recommend that individuals should not delay their Covid vaccinations on account of Ramadan. The approved COVID-19 vaccines do not contain any animal products or egg. The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine does contain a very small amount of ethanol, but the British Islamic Medical Association recommends that eligible individuals in Muslim communities should still receive it.  The British Islamic Medical Association has also produced a helpful guide for the Muslim community on the contents of both vaccines.  

If I have already had Covid-19 and recovered, do I still need to get vaccinated?

The NHS recommends that people go ahead and get the vaccine when it’s their turn, even if they’ve already had Covid-19 and recovered. There is no evidence of any safety concerns from vaccinating individuals with a past history of Covid-19 infection, or with detectable Covid-19 antibody. Also, experts don’t yet have a good understanding of how long natural immunity might last and whether you are protected against the various strains of the virus. A vaccine can boost your protection without causing harm and is the best form of defence against the virus.

 

People who have had COVID-19 infection can be vaccinated after around four weeks of symptoms starting, or four weeks after a positive test in someone who had no symptoms.

 

If you are invited for your vaccination during this period, please let your GP practice know or book an appointment through the National Booking Service after this time.

 

If you are suffering from ‘Long Covid’ and you are eligible for a vaccination, you should discuss this with your GP or another healthcare professional who will be able to advise you on whether or not to get the vaccine.

Can undocumented migrants receive the vaccine?

The Covid-19 vaccination programme is available to everyone, regardless of immigration status. In line with published national guidance, migrants to England, including anyone living in the UK without permission, will be eligible for a vaccine when it is their turn. An NHS number is not needed to be eligible for a Covid vaccination. However, it is helpful to be registered with a GP so that the NHS can invite patients to book a Covid-19 vaccination appointment when it is their turn.  Registration with a GP also enables the vaccinator to check for safety issues or medical reasons why the person should not be vaccinated at that time, and to check for previous vaccinations.  Patients do not need to show proof of address, ID or immigration status to register with a GP. This also applies if you are an asylum seeker, refugee, a homeless patient or an overseas visitor, whether lawfully in the UK or not.

Why were vaccine manufacturers given immunity from civil liability?  

No safety concerns have been reported in vaccines authorised for use following rigorous clinical trials involving tens of thousands of people and extensive analysis of vaccine safety, quality, and effectiveness by experts from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) which approved the vaccine for use. Once the MHRA determined the vaccine was safe, it was given emergency approval which allowed it to be used immediately however, under this approval companies and healthcare professionals are immune from civil liability as long as the vaccine is used correctly. Nevertheless, the government has taken the precautionary step to ensure that, in the very rare possibility where someone is severely affected as a result of the vaccine, they can access financial assistance through the Vaccine Damage Payments Scheme (VDPS).

What should I do if I receive multiple invitations to receive a vaccine?

People may receive 'multiple invites' for coronavirus jabs due to a cross-over between national and local vaccination programmes. When you do get contacted to attend you may receive multiple invitations with different options and you can choose where to get your vaccine, if you receive a letter from the national booking service for the large vaccination centres or pharmacy services then you can wait to be contacted by your local GP service if a more local service is more accessible. If you’ve already had a vaccine or booked an appointment, then you don’t need to respond. You may receive a phone call, email, text message or letter. So it’s useful to keep an eye out to make sure you receive the message. If your contact details have changed lately, now’s a good time to make sure your GP practice has the most up to date information.

Do the Covid-19 vaccines affect fertility?

There is no evidence to suggest that Covid-19 vaccines will affect fertility and you do not need to avoid pregnancy after vaccination. The vaccine cannot give you or your baby Covid-19.  The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) and the Royal College Midwives (RCM) issued a joint statement to provide reassurance around the misinformation that has been shared about the impact of Covid-19 vaccines on fertility.  In the statement, Dr Edward Morris, President at RCOG, said: “We want to reassure women that there is no evidence to suggest that Covid-19 vaccines will affect fertility.” RCM Chief Executive Gill Walton added: “Women who are eligible for the vaccination should consider discussing any concerns they have with their midwife or healthcare professional.” The full statement can be read here.

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